I’m going to do something different for not only this review but two others, and that is simply to purposefully commit the most heinous of writing-based crimes. This literary faux pass is one often seen as pure laziness to the nth degree but, and if you’ll allow me to explain, I can’t think of three reviews more deserving – or rather understanding – to bestow said sin upon. What I’m specifically talking about, then, is one of copying text, like for like, across three separate reviews. It shan’t be the whole review, mind, as that simply wouldn’t make sense. Nay, the first two paragraphs will be, for the most part, identical to the other chosen pieces of work.
Now, allow me to explain myself before your collective pitchforks be elevated too high and before the embers of your village pyre cast a sweat upon your brow. The three titles that share said words are this one, My Hero One’s Justice 2, and both One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, linked appropriately. All three, should the connection not be immediately obvious, are all anime-based games and, importantly, published by Bandai Namco. For anyone that has experienced such a title, a certain cognitive image of the game, both on a quality and appearance-based level, forms within one’s psyche; Usually one of middling to high quality, but certainly approachable for all players nonetheless. Having three similar titles all launch within a 29-day timeframe certainly raises questions surrounding the thought behind such releases and, as a result, the quality, but the differences between the titles couldn’t be more night and day if they’d tried.
My Hero Academia, a series that has been around in manga and anime formats since 2015 and 2016 respectively, has grown from strength to strength since it’s release and, as one would then expect, it was only natural for game adaptations to be released somewhere down the line. 2018’s My Hero One’s Justice released to a fairly positive – if somewhat expected – reception, with critics and fans alike praising the simplistic, flashy combat, yet finding this presentation at odds with the rest of the package. The story, which follows the anime’s major arcs beat for beat, is largely presented in a stylish-yet-awkward comic book-panel manner. The occasional, more meaningful moments were gorgeously animated, perfectly capturing the essence of the anime in the game’s highly stylised aesthetic.
It’s only right, then, that this oft-requested sequel to Shonen’s newest anime hit merely builds upon the proven format laid out years earlier. The Rock, Paper, Scissors combat system, which utilises quick attacks, counter-attacks and unblockables, is back in full force. With a much-improved roster of heroes and villains alike to play as, the bombastic spectacle of the anime is so effortlessly recreated time and time again. Despite further additions and refinements being made in this sequel, such as robust dodges and the honest beginnings of a stamina meter, the fights still present themselves as imprecise at best, downright clumsy at worst. With characters flying left, right and centre in the moment to moment gameplay, the camera often trips up over both the frantic movement and the surroundings. Having walls phase in and out of the gameplay depending on your positioning can quite often wrongly allude to further space being available to yourself when, in reality, you’re simply just about to pound someone against a wall.
Yet, despite all of this, it’s still fun to experience, more so when playing against other player-controlled opponents. The many quirks – unique abilities that some denizens of the My Hero Academia universe are born with – vary significantly, which keeps combat exciting and full of visual spectacle. From Izuku “Deku” Midoriya’s strength to Endeavour’s fire-orientated move set, no one character feels like they have an innate advantage when compared to others, meaning all are viable. Being able to take two support characters into battle puts further abilities into play and, should you be so inclined, strategies can be formed to gain the upper hand. Again, the intricate balancing of the roster means that there’s no god-tier combination of characters to roll into battle with, but it’s certainly nice to have your favourites, as unlikely as their team-up may be, appear alongside one another.
It’s in both the combat and the roster that the improvements start and stop, however. The story, which still follows the main beats of the anime, continues to be presented in the stills/fully animated mashup found in the 2018 release. Granted, the stills are still remarkably beautiful, but the emotion and grandeur that tries to be conveyed never quite hits home. What is equally as expected and disappointing is the breadth, or lack thereof, of online play functionality. Whilst it’s certainly not necessarily a skill-based game as such – the Rock, Paper, Scissors-style of combat is as much a guessing game as it can be based on actual skill – I found the net code to be severely lacking, and button inputs often refused to register. After combat, should you have found a stable connection to a worthwhile opponent, there’s no way to challenge them to a rematch. Instead, the game moves you on to the next opponent as you gamble with quality yet again. Again, I doubt that this game will garner the feverous online fanbase that, say, Super Smash Bros Ultimate has gathered, but to seemingly have limitations on the potential is indeed disappointing.
My Hero One’s Justice 2, then, is expectedly a slightly better, more story-relevant take on 2018’s surprise hit. The additions aren’t enough to sway those who were unsure of the original, yet appreciated enough for those that did play the proceeding game. No doubt the extended roster is the breakout addition, sure, but outside of those already invested in the My Hero Academia-verse, there’s little to be excited about, bar a damn good, albeit wholly casual, stylish anime fighter. And, seriously, who can argue with that?
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